Monday, July 06, 2015

"What's your father's name?..."

Gurdwara Sangat Sahib in memory of Bhai Pheru jee
'Bhai Pheru Morcha' was one of a series of the campaigns of Sikh agitations, in the 1920s, for the reformation of their holy places. Gurdwara Sangat Sahib in Lahore district, is dedicated to the memory of Bhai Pheru jee (1640 - 1706). Bhai Pheru jee was a masand or parish leader in the time of Guru Har Rai jee who was honoured for his devotion by Guru Gobind Singh jee with the titles of Sachee Daahree ("True Beard") and Sangat Sahib. The shrine was an important shrine, with 2,750 acres of land attached to it. At the time of the morcha (campaign) it was being managed by Mahant Kishan Daas.

After the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), a representative body of the Sikhs, had taken over management of some of the major shrines and mahants or care-takers had started voluntarily handing over gurdwaras under their control. On 28th December 1922 Mahant Kishan Daas transferred Gurdwara Bhai Pheru to the SGPC. He later went back on the agreement he had signed and petitioned the government to have the shrine and the lands restored back to him. On 7th December 1923 the police arrested the manager appointed by the SGPC, Bhai Jagat Singh jee, and eleven other representatives of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. 

However, by time the Mahant came back to take possession of the gurdwara and its land, the Deputy Commissioner of Lahore ruled in favour of the SGPC. Feeling raged by the decision, Mahant Kishan Daas along with Pala Raam (brother of Mahant Narain Das, the Mahant of Sri Nankana Sahib) lodged a complaint with the police that the Akalis were forcibly taking possession of his property. Acting on his complaint, the police arrested 34 Akalis on 2nd January 1924. The government then went back on its decision and instead released new orders that Pala Raam was to have temporary possession of the land.

Jathas (batches) of Akali volunteers started marching to Bhai Pheru from different parts of the district. On 5th January 1924, the SGPC took the campaign into its own hands. By 10th September 1925, 6,372 Sikhs had been arrested. An unsavoury incident, however, led the local organizer, Arjan Singh, to suspend the morcha on 20th September 1925. The Gurdwara and the lands attached to it came under the SGPC's control after the Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925 was passed by the Punjab Legislative Council, and the court case too was decided in the Committee's favour in June 1931. 

Below is a story relating to this morcha was illustrates the spirit of the Khalsa which made them invisible:

      How a British Officer admitted defeat from Sikhs
Author: Bhai Kulbir Singh jee
Taken from 

Sodhi Harbhajan Singh jee
One day, Sodhi Harbhajan Singh jee (1913-1995), the writer of the famous book Bhajan Bandagi Da Prataap, was standing in a shop in Jabaalpur that an English couple walked in and said Fateh to him loudly. Harbhajan Singh was surprised to hear Fateh from the English couple. Sodhi Harbhajan Singh jee started talking to them and asked them how come they know so much about Sikhi. Upon this the English gentleman told him his story as follows:

"I was a police captain in 1924 when the Akalis launched Bhai Pheru morcha in Lahore city of Punjab (now in Pakistan). I got special orders from the Inspector General of Police to crush the Sikhs. I told him that I could do so only if I was to be given the police party of my choice. At this he agreed and I hand picked the most ruthless and strong young men from backgrounds such as Lyalpuri Jaanglis and Jhelami Jaats. I took my police party to Gurdwara Bhai Pheru and surrounded the disputed place with wire and had my police party stationed there.

The first Jatha started marching from Amritsar and slowly reached Gurdwara Bhai Pheru after doing prachaar (preaching) in several villages on their way. On the day of the arrival of the Jatha at Gurdwara Bhai Pheru I asked my toughest Thanedaar (Police Officer) to get me the list of all the members of Jatha along with their father's name and home address. That afternoon I got surprised when I saw the list. All Jatha members had listed Guru Gobind Singh jee as their father. I got really mad when I saw the list and swore at the Thanedaar for failing to get even the name of their father.

The thanedaar replied that he tried his best but no one in the Jatha gave any other name for their father but Guru Gobind Singh jee. My wife who was sitting beside me mocked me by saying that if I can't even get their father's name how the hell am I going to crush them. At this I vowed that I will eat my breakfast the next day, only after getting their father's name from them.

Next day I chose 50 stern and strong-hearted policemen and asked them to pick 25 old and weak members of the Jatha. I then ordered that let two policemen hold one Sikh and use whatever means to make them spit out their father's name. I further said that whoever does it first would get a gold medal and special recognition from the government. Hearing my order, the policemen started beating the Jatha members savagely till they got unconscious. Then they would bring them back to senses and beat them again. But none of them told their worldly father's name. All they would say was Guru Gobind Singh jee and Vaheguru. When they failed to get any results I asked the police officers to remove their belts and get the hell out of there. By that time it was 10am and I was feeling really hungry.

I chose another 50 policemen and asked them to do the same thing. I asked them to use very severe measures to torture the Jatha members to break their resolve of not telling the name of their worldly father. I knew that if they admit defeat and spit out their father’s name, then they would also accept the defeat of their agitation. A lot was at stake. I put their hands upside down under the Charpai (Indian beds) and made the police officers jump on the beds. The Sikhs were in great pain but they did not yield. I even made my policemen hammer nails in their buttocks but still we were unable to break their resolve.

By 6pm I was badly tired and was extremely hungry. I lost all my pride and ego and felt totally helpless in front of those non-violent lions. I picked up the phone and dialled to the Inspector General of Police and resigned. The next day I took train to Bombay and went to England. I wrote it down on the resignation letter that no one should mess with the Sikhs."


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